Ken Beaton: Stalingrad, the beginning of the end
Here’s today’s Final Jeopardy answer is, “The Great Patriotic War.” Contestant number one wrote, “What is the Prussian War?”
“Sorry that’s the wrong answer. Contestant number two wrote, ‘What does the South call the Civil War?’ That answer is also incorrect.”
“Ron, yesterday’s champion wrote, ‘What do Russians call WWII?’ That’s correct! We’ll see you tomorrow on Jeopardy!”
In the eyes of German citizens, Hitler could do no wrong until Feb. 2, 1943. Adolph’s massive mistake began on Sunday, June 22, 1941. “Operation Barbarossa” was the German code name for the invasion. Hitler’s hatred clouded his decision-making process.
Hitler was not a student of French history. He did not know about Napoleon’s June 24, 1812 invasion of Russia and his humiliating retreat on Dec. 12, 1814.
The first four months of “Operation Barbarossa” enjoyed warm weather as the Wehrmacht advanced in Russia. Russian farmers and citizens cheered German troops as liberators. They were free from Stalin’s heavy hand.
After four months of warm weather, the weather changed to rain, soon the temperature nosedived. Arctic winds began to freeze everything human or mechanical.
How cold are Russian winters you ask? Remember when your moustache froze in 30 seconds? Consider your moustache freezing in less than five seconds!
The battle for Stalingrad was from Aug. 23, 1942, to Feb. 2, 1943. Soon the city was reduced to rubble with house to house fighting as battle lines were exchanged several times in the same day. There were 2 million German and Russian casualties, wounded and dead. House to house fighting inflicted many casualties.
The Red Army’s battle for Stalingrad was TOTAL WAR! Russian women were recruited to fight with men in the front lines. The Red Army had some female units of ground troops including a platoon of female snipers. From her hidden position, a female sniper would squeeze the trigger killing a German soldier then move to a new position with a view of the German troops. She’d line the cross hairs on another German soldier and squeeze the trigger. There were several Russian female snipers with more than 200 confirmed KILLS. There was no such thing as the weaker sex in the Red Army. The Russian female snipers were COLD HARDENED KILLERS!
The German High Command made two mistakes. First, they were overconfident. Second, they had underestimated Soviet reserves. As soon as a Russian soldier was killed, another took his place.
Finally, on Dec. 18, 1942 German forces were 30 miles from rescuing the trapped Sixth Army. Unfortunately, the Sixth Army didn’t have enough fuel to begin a breakout. The German High Command wanted the Sixth Army to tie down Soviet Forces. The Sixth Army began running out of ammunition on Jan. 23, 1943.
The weather was the German Army’s second enemy. German soldiers who did not keep moving froze to death with their eyes open. Some of their dead were frozen to the ground. Dead Germans were stacked similar to cord wood. Ammunition and food supplies ran dangerously low or didn’t exist. The German southern and central pockets surrendered on Jan. 31, 1943. The northern pocket commanded by General Karl Strecker surrendered on Feb. 2, 1943. Ninety-one thousand exhausted, ill, starving and wounded German troops including 3,000 Romanians and 22 German generals surrendered.
Beginning on June 28, 1942 to Feb. 2, 1943 the Sixth Army, 4th Panzer Army, Army Group B losses totaled over 600,000 men. There were 109,000 Romanian casualties, 114,000 Italian casualties, 105,000 Hungarians casualties. The Axis forces lost 900 aircraft, 500 tanks, 1,312 mortars, 12,201 heavy machine guns, 156,987 rifles, 80,438 sub-machine guns, 10,722 trucks, 1,666 tanks, 261 armored vehicles, 571 half-tracks and 10,679 motorcycles.
Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich Paulus was the first German Field Marshal to surrender to enemy forces. Hitler believed Paulus would either fight to the death or commit suicide.
Reading the results of the German invasion of Russia, I discovered that the Russians consistently lost more men and material compared to the Germans. The Red Army’s first priority was to completely crush the German forces. Russian tractor factories had the ability to replace tanks, trucks, and guns that were lost in battle. The Germans were thousands of kilometers from their factories. The Russians drafted more farm boys to replace battle losses. There was no basic training in the Red Army. The new recruits received “on the job training.” Every Red Army officer had a rifle and a hand gun. The hand gun was to shoot anyone who refused to follow an order. The options were a) you might be killed by a German or b) you were guaranteed to be killed by your commanding officer! Caught between a rock and a hard place!
Another example was the Battle of Kursk during July/August 1943. The Kursk area was a massive agricultural area, perfect for the largest tank battle ever! The German losses were 200,000 troops killed, 2,000 tanks and 700 planes. The Red Army lost 250,000 (50,000 more than the Germans), 6,000 tanks (three times the German losses), and 1,000 planes (300 more than the Luftwaffe). The German forces began to retreat in defeat.
The Italian author, Dante, described Hell as a frozen wasteland. American GIs who fought in the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944) or who fought the Red Chinese “volunteers” at North Korea’s Chosin Reservoir during November-December 1950 would agree with Dante. At minus-38 degrees F, if a person hammered a nail, the nail would shatter similar to glass! Vehicle engines had to run 24 hours a day or the oil would freeze! Cold enough for you Bucko?